Choosing a school? You’ve got options.
Choosing a school is a big decision; after all, it can have a huge impact on your child’s future! Fortunately, Georgia families have access to an array of K-12 school choice options. Understanding these school choices can help you find the best match for your child’s personality, strengths, and interests. And remember, each child is unique. The “best” school for your child may be different than the “best” school for your neighbor’s child.
This post will breakdown the main types of schools available to you, as well as provide additional education resources for Georgia parents. In short, you can choose from traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online learning, homeschooling, and microschooling and mix-and-match learning.
Looking for special education options? You can learn what special education services are available in Georgia at the Ultimate Guide to Special Education.
- Traditional Public Schools
- Public Charter Schools
- Public Magnet Schools
- Private Schools
- Online Schools
Georgia Traditional Public Schools
Most children in Georgia (84%) attend traditional public schools. Traditional public schools are free to attend, open to all students, operated by school districts, and funded by federal, state, and local government. Did you know that, on average, Georgia spends $12,145 per public school pupil each year? You can search your school’s spending and that of nearby schools at Project Nickel.
Georgia has restricted open enrollment for public school. What this means is that Georgia families can send their child to any public school within their school district as long as the school has room and has been open for at least four years. Schools cannot charge tuition for within-district transfers.
Also, in some cases, families can choose public schools outside their district; contact your local district to see if this is an option for you. For a real-world example of the transfer process and timeline, check out Atlanta Public Schools’ application process. Note that parents are usually responsible for transportation of students participating in open enrollment.
Open enrollment is a valuable option because it gives parents more flexibility for where they can send their child; they can visit and research public schools beyond their neighborhood school. If you would like to participate in open enrollment, contact your school district to learn more.
Find out more about public schools in your state at the Georgia Department of Education and learn more about Georgia open enrollment in “Public Schools Without Boundaries: A 50-State Ranking.”
Georgia Charter Schools
Families can also consider public charter schools. Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are allowed extra freedom to innovate with curriculum and learning methods. Each school has a charter which explains the school’s purpose and what specific community need it serves, whether that be providing a language immersion program or offering a rigorous, literacy-based curriculum. If there are more families seeking admittance to a charter school than there are seats, a lottery system is usually used to determine admittance.
According to the Georgia Department of Education, there are currently 115 charter schools (not including schools within charter systems) in the state serving 3.6% of the K-12 student population. One of the newest is Atlanta SMART Academy, one of only four performing arts middle schools in Georgia.
Charters are growing in Georgia! The State Charter Schools Foundation of Georgia was awarded a large grant by the U.S. Department of Education in 2022 to expand charter schools in the state.
Georgia Magnet Schools
Magnet schools are free public schools that allow kids to narrow in on a specific learning track, such as engineering or the performing arts. At a magnet school, all the subjects are taught through the lenses of that specific track.
Georgia has more than 20 magnet schools scattered throughout the state. Districts with magnet schools include Bibb County School District, Richmond County School System, Savannah-Chatham Public Schools, DeKalb County School District, Dougherty County School System, and Muscogee County School District. Additionally, Clayton County Public Schools offers various magnet programs.
Georgia Private Schools
Georgia has a variety of private schools, from religious schools to schools designed for children with special needs. In fact, there are about 870 private schools across the state. The average tuition for private schools in the state is $11,362 for elementary schools and $12,149 for high schools.
Georgia’s nonpublic schools do charge tuition, but a public school student wishing to switch to a private school can apply for a scholarship. In Georgia, 1.3% of all K-12 students participate in a private school choice program. Georgia’s Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit program helps fund these scholarships by allowing donors to receive tax credits when they give to a scholarship organization. To apply for a scholarship, reach out directly to one of the state’s Student Scholarship Organizations listed on the Georgia Department of Education’s website. These organizations manage private school scholarships and can let you know about availability and next steps. In 2022, Georgia legislators strengthened this tax credit program by increasing the cap on donations to it.
The state also has a scholarship program specifically for children with special needs. In 2021, this program expanded to include students with a 504 plan for a variety of conditions (autism, cancer, drug abuse, etc.). Additional funding may be available from other sources.
Georgia’s private schools offer unique formats, curricula, and cultures for students to learn in. One private school we talked to, Cornerstone Preparatory Academy, has a format called a “University Model.” Head of School Jeanne Borders describes, “Our secondary students have classes on campus three days a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), like at a university. They do their work from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays with our assignments given to them. Then we have our elementary kids here on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we partner with their parents to deliver lessons and co-teach on the days that they’re at home. Tuition for both groups of students is much less, and parents and families are involved in the children’s education.”
Learn more at Private School Review: Georgia.
Georgia Online Learning
Georgia’s free, full-time online learning options for students statewide include Georgia Connections Academy and Georgia Cyber Academy, both of which serve all grades K-12. Students in grades 6-9 can also consider the newly-opened Destinations Career Academy of Georgia.
Georgia Virtual School is the state’s official virtual school and provides online courses at the high school level, plus a credit recovery program and some middle school courses. Public school students can enroll full-time or part-time at no cost. Some state funds are available to cover tuition for private and homeschool students on a first-come, first-served basis.
Some districts in Georgia have developed their own online schools, and in some cases out-of-district families may be able to transfer into one of these schools. For example, Gwinnett Online Campus, Cobb Virtual Academy, Rockdale Virtual Campus, DeKalb County’s FLEX Academy, and Fulton Virtual serve students within their districts. Forsyth Virtual Academy is a district-run online option open to students within and outside of Forsyth County.
Homeschooling is another school option in all 50 states, including Georgia. Homeschooling is the process of parents educating students at home. As both technology and school choices have spread in Georgia, homeschooling is an increasingly popular choice with more support and resources than ever.
In Georgia, 4.1% of all K-12 students are homeschooled. The state requires notice of your intent to homeschool within 30 days of the start of homeschooling, and annually by September 1st afterwards. It is recommended that you formally withdraw from your current school so that your student is not marked truant. If you choose homeschooling, the state requires you to teach specific subjects (such as reading, math, and science) and also requires some level of assessment for your child.
Is your child interested in playing sports? In 2021, Georgia enacted a law that neighborhood schools must allow homeschool students to try out for sports teams and extracurricular activities. In return, participating homeschool students must take at least one class at the school.
In the case that you decide to switch back to public school, you will need to create a withdrawal form from homeschool and have your enrolling school validate your homeschool work.
You can find a great how-to about homeschooling at the Home School Legal Defense Association – Georgia, or learn more from the Georgia Department of Education. Keep in mind that homeschooled students with special needs may be eligible for additional support from the State of Georgia.
Georgia Microschools and Mix-and-Match Learning
Today, many Georgia families are mixing and matching school options to come up with new ways to personalize education. Microschools are one of these ways. A microschool refers to students gathering together in a small group – with adult supervision – to learn, explore, and socialize. Microschools can take a variety of shapes and legal forms, from homeschoolers coming together at an enrichment center to a private school committed to small classrooms. What microschools share in common is a commitment to small-group learning, close-knit relationships, and emphasizing children as individual learners.
Here are real examples of microschools and other innovative learning resources in Georgia:
KaiPod Learning recently opened a Learning Support Group for Atlanta-area students. Students who homeschool or use an accredited virtual school can join the pod for community and educational support.
The Attuned Community School offers a diverse learning pod environment focusing on play-based, nature-based, and project and inquiry-based learning experiences.
TwiddleU specializes in education and therapy for Autistic and neurodiverse children, emphasizing hands-on and digital learning in a supportive, inclusive environment.
Georgia Fugees Academy is a small charter school designed to meet the needs of refugee and new American students through wraparound services and soccer school.
St. John Bosco Academy is a hybrid school that blends in-person learning with at-home study.
Sometimes Learning Support Groups are district-run. For example, the DeKalb County School District won a grant to partner with a community non-profit and serve alternative education students through learning hubs.
In 2021, Georgia passed a law protecting homes and informal places used for Learning Support Groups from burdensome state or local regulation.
Mercer University has announced the establishment of a transitional school, opening in fall 2024, for children with dyslexia. The innovative school will help prepare students to master skills to succeed in a more traditional school setting, and will also serve as a hub of dyslexia study and teacher training.
Remember, microschooling is more a mentality than a specific legal distinction in most cases. Often, a family participates in a microschool while legally homeschooling, or being enrolled in a private or online school.
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For additional information about school choices in Georgia, visit these resources: